superhero

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Review

I wonder how long it’ll be until Marvel finally kills off some of its main characters.  Only at that point will their cinematic universe truly open to new stories.  I say this because the formulas for the modern superhero movie are slowly making each installment more predictable.  In the meantime, we have a film that screams “capitalization.”  Either that or it’s just a sequel that pales in comparison to its predecessor.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written/directed by James Gunn.  Stars-Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper.  Premise-During one of their adventures (and getting into trouble at the same time), the Guardians learn more about their leader’s (Star-Lord) childhood.

The biggest problem with Guardians 2 is the writing.  No offense to Gunn (whose ideas started the trend of superhero movies having retro soundtracks), but this script needed another brain working on it.  Perhaps you see it differently, but this film felt really awkward to me.  Some of the jokes felt rushed or were not delivered well; especially whenever they try to use profanity (the PG-13 rating neuters some of these jokes).  It’s difficult to phrase, but the movie doesn’t have the flow of the original.  One thing that attributes to that is the terrible cutting.  I don’t know if it was written or edited this way, but there are many scenes that cut away at inopportune times.  For example, Star-Lord is about to learn something critical about his past, but the scene randomly cuts to the subplot involving Yondu.  I wouldn’t mind as much if this was a one-time thing, however, this occurs at least 3 times.  It kinda ruins the moment.  Still, the movie isn’t without its charm.

The cast may actually be better this time around.  That’s because they have much more development.  I don’t know why critics are saying the characters aren’t fleshed out; there are more character-focused scenes than actiony, space ones.  The first movie was similar to a television pilot in terms of character.  We got their backstories, personalities, and some interplay between them.  This movie bumps it up a notch.  The drama is outstandingly affective, and it kept the movie from getting boring.  Bautista, Rooker, and Cooper, especially get to shine with their material.  Which is great considering the action sequences and CGI are way too cartoony this time around (but the sets are fantastic).

Well, that was short.  Sorry if you were expecting 20 paragraphs of in-depth criticism, but that’s really all I have to say.  In essence, it’s not as good as the first one.  Heck, the soundtrack isn’t one-fifth as memorable as the first.  The best comparison I can come up with is the difference between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back movies.  The first was much more fun and action-packed, while the second was darker and focused on the characters.  That said, most people prefer Empire Strikes Back, so I’ll let you decide if time Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is worth your time.  But for me, it gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B.

“Power Rangers” (2017) Review

I can’t come up with a fresh intro, so here is some context.  I love the Power Rangers shows!  Campy, but fun; formulaic, but entertaining; they serve as very fond childhood memories of mine (S.P.D. and Samurai were my favorite generations).  When they announced a film adaptation, I had the usual Internet response: insta-rage.  Not only did they hire the director of Project Almanac (loads of potential, crappy execution), but the script went through multiple writers before being turned into a 2 hour screenplay that is supposed to set up a universe which rivals that of Marvel.  Well, if Lionsgate wants to milk 6 sequels out of this movie, it better grab the audience’s attention with likable characters, a clever plot, and jaw-dropping visuals.  Or they could just rip-off Chronicle.

Power Rangers is directed by Dean Israelite and written by: John Gatins, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney, and Kieran Mulroney.  Stars-Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader, and Bryan Cranston.  Premise-A group of high school students come across some otherworldly technology and after an accident, come away from it with superpowers.  As per the ususal, now they must save the world.

I should probably preface this review by saying that I don’t recall all the lore and characters from the entire franchise.  I’m not even certain which generation this movie is based on.  However, I know what made the series’ work, and thus, I reside in the section of the audience who grew up with the originals.  In addition, I understand the main concern people had with the movie ever since the freaking costumes were released: “Is it going to take itself too seriously?”  The charm of this franchise comes from the corniness and lighthearted tone.  To turn that into an obnoxiously serious, brooding drama would result in… Batman v Superman (and we all know how well that one turned out).  To make things perfectly clear, being “dark” is not the problem, poor screenwriting is.  How can The Dark Knight be universally praised for its dark tone and adult themes while Batman v Superman is despised for its somber style and gloomy character arcs?  Aside from the fact that Christopher Nolan is an angel from cinema heaven; The Dark Knight developed its characters and didn’t spend half the dialogue setting up future installments.  In the case of Power Rangers, it’s definitely darker than the shows, but they balance it out with plenty of humorous moments.  Unfortunately, the movie isn’t very good at comedy, or action, or pacing, or…

Despite these young actors trying their hardest, the material they’re given is garbage.  I made the comparison to Chronicle because Power Rangers follows its first act to a T.  These characters are extremely clichéd high school stereotypes.  Subsequently, we get to see all the gloriously overdone character arcs and easy-to-write backstories that come with them.  I’m not going to pretend that the shows had mind-blowing characters, but they had plenty of charm.  These guys literally spell out what their main character trait is “I’m insane!”  “What’s up crazy girl?”  “The ‘golden boy’ of our little town.”  It makes for some extremely unengaging characters.  I’ll admit, there is a lot of time dedicated to character development, but what we get is not very original.  It doesn’t help that 80% of the dialogue is painfully bland exposition.

Despite the character faults, the action could make up for it.  Ughhhhhh; that’s where the other half of the problems lie.  While the F/X and costumes are decent, it takes forever for us to actually see the Power Rangers!  You have to sit through 90 slow minutes of boring high school ridiculousness before any cool stuff happens.  Also, the pacing is yawn-inducing, and the camerawork is crappy (ugly Dutch angles, shaky cam, the usual).  What’s especially aggravating is the third act.  More clichés are abused!  We get a fake out death (it’s not a spoiler because you know the movie won’t actually do it), followed by one of the worst examples of “Talking Killer Syndrome” (a term crated by Roger Ebert to describe bad guys who monologue instead of kill), and a very disappointing climax.  The fight choreography is ok and the scale is fun, but the battle sequence ached for more time devoted to it.  Hopefully the sequels are more action-drewn, but this movie never measures up to the potential.  Honestly, it would have been outstanding if it was directed by Edgar Wright.  The source material would be perfect for his style of humor.  He can do action quite well (Scott Pilgrim, Hot Fuzz), and the genre lends its way for clever satire.  Sadly, I ain’t that lucky.  With that, the review is over.

Is Power Rangers an unnecessary adaptation that’s worth your time (like Warcraft or 2016’s The Magnificent Seven)?  Or is it an unnecessary adaptation that you should burn with hellfire (Maleficent, 2016’s Ghostbusters, Assassins Creed, 2015’s Vacation, etc.)?  That is entirely up to you.  In my (packed) theater, the parents looked bored, but the kids were having a blast.  Most critics don’t like the film, but most audiences enjoyed it.  As for me, there was not enough cool stuff to overshadow the blandness.  Then again, I did sit though Monster Trucks and Life (2017) so a film about angsty teens talking to Bryan Cranston’s wall-face doesn’t seem too bad.  Power Rangers gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C+.

“Logan” Review

It’s about dang time I reviewed an X-Men movie huh?  There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this: I don’t care about the X-Men (the comics, the characters, and the films).  Ok, “don’t care” is a bit much.  For what they’re worth, these characters have a huge following, and their films (which range wildly in quality) have started many careers and had a major influence on the superhero industry.  They maintained a darker tone than most other superhero flicks (largely due to complex characters and clever social commentary), and they persisted through many ups and downs in the genre.  However, I was never that engaged with the films, especially the horrid ones.  For me, the tone isn’t dark enough (like The Dark Knight or Watchmen) to dive into the really gritty stuff; or it was never lighthearted enough to be an enjoyable action flick (Doctor Strange or Captain America: Civil War).  Considering that this is Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the character, they have to do something phenomenal.  Something that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.  Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Logan; one of the best superhero movies of the 2010s.

Logan is directed by James Mangold and written by: James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green.  Stars-Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, and Boyed Holbrook.  Premise-Set a couple decades in the future, an aging Logan is trying to take care of a crazed professor X in the Mexican border.  By a twist of fate, he finds a young mutant running from unknown evil who desperately needs his help.

James Mangold also directed The Wolverine, which was a major improvement over its predecessor, but I can’t help but think he was held back by studio demands.  One of those demands being a PG-13 rating.  The first thing I have to bring up is the: tough, no holds barred, brutal, not at all for kids, R rating.  Thank you Deadpool for being a faithful adaptation that grossed over $700 million.  Companies are finally growing a pair and can bring us proper portrayals of comic book violence without the fear of poor box office returns (note, I am aware Deadpool is not the first R rated comic book film).  It only took 17 years for us to see the Wolverine chopping up people with the realistic amount of gore and blood.  Yes, the action scenes in Logan are incredible.  Flawless stunts, kinetic (without being annoyingly shaky) cinematography, gruesome sound design, and violence that makes Deadpool look tame.  One scene in particular… oh my gosh.  It takes place in a hotel and is a Triple M.  Basically, I have not come across a scene that kept me suspended in anticipation for over 3 minutes!  You’ll be able to tell what scene I’m talking about by the editing, sound, and Marco Beltrami’s awesome score.  By the time it was over, I didn’t notice I was holding my breath!  That never happens!  This movie is worth watching, twice, for the action alone.  Not to say that the story is lacking.

There is a surprisingly large amount of emotional depth in Logan.  It’s no secret that this character is the most developed out of all the movies, is the most popular, and has been a major source of drama for the franchise.  I’m impressed with how personal this movie gets with the character.  This may be Hugh Jackman’s best performance as Wolverine since the first two films.  There are many scenes with no dialogue, just Logan.  We see the wear and tear on his body and how emotionally conflicted he is.  It makes for one heck of a protagonist I’ll tell ya.  The supporting cast also shines.  This is Keen’s first film, and she’s fantastic.  Most of the time, she doesn’t speak, and she has great chemistry with Jackman and Stewart (who is also top notch).  This is probably the best child performance I’ve seen since Raffey Cassidy in Tomorrowland (hey look at that, strong female characters that are not remakes, who’d have thunk it?).  Sadly, this film is not perfect.

There are a few “characters on the run” clichés that take you out of the experience.  Particularly a decision (an obviously dumb one) that happens during the second act that you can predict the end result of.  It’s a shame because that is a seriously important/dramatic part of the movie, but they used a boring cliché (one that was used in X-Men Origins!) to set it up.  The next problem the sheer amount of question marks I had when I left the theater.  There’s about 29 unexplained plot points (regarding the past, supposed atrocities characters committed, secret locations) that I’m sure will be explained in future installments.  But, I’m left clueless as to what is going on for most of the time.  Honestly, I’d prefer if they left all the details to the wayside so they could focus on one specific conflict rather than try to tell 15 stories at once (looking at you Apocalypse).  The biggest problem is the villain(s).  There are two of them, and they are both clichés.  I’d tell you what tropes they are, but that would spoil the film.  Just know that these guys are forgettable and largely unimportant.

There is no doubt about it; Logan is not to be missed.  If you want action, it’s here, if you want character development, it’s here, if you want a dang good cinematic experience, it’s here.  Logan gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A-.  On a side note, I may not be producing as much content for the next month or so.  Basically, I have some major college decisions to make this month, and my emotions are in utter turmoil trying to figure it out.  I’ll still be getting at least one review published a week (as doing this allows my mind to focus), but the projects that I wanted to finish last month are being delayed so I can sort other things out.  Thank you.

Check my Twitter for updates.

 

X-Men Movies Ranked

X-Men (2000-B+

X2 (2003)-B

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)-B-

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)-D-

X-Men: First Class (2011)-B

The Wolverine (2013)-C+

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)-B+

Deadpool (the X-Men contribute enough to the story to be called an X-Man film) (2016)-A-

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)-C+

Logan (2017)-A-

“The Lego Batman Movie” Review

You all know the story of a certain animated masterpiece about Legos, how great it is, and how the Academy, in one of their dumbest moves yet, snubbed it for Best Animated Feature in 2015.  The writing was clichéd, but creative, the voice-actors’ personalities shined, and the animation is some of the best you’ll ever see.  It proved many naysayers wrong, and reminded us that movies based on toys don’t always have to suck.  This film paved the way for toy-based movies to make a comeback.  Sadly we got Trolls, Max Steel, and Monster Trucks.  Looks like Hollywood needs a refresher on how to do it right, and there’s no better candidate than the one we’re going over now.

The Lego Batman Movie is directed by Chris McKay and written by: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington.  Stars-Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Zach Galifianakis.  Premise-A spin-off of The Lego Movie, Bruce Wayne/Batman must face his fear of relationships while ensuring the safety of Gotham.

Before we get into anything major it would be apparent to say that this movie is not nearly as amazing as the first one.  That doesn’t mean The Lego Batman Movie isn’t without its charms.  Honestly, if you want to sum up this movie’s humor, I would call it a kid-friendly version of Deadpool.  There are so many fourth wall jokes, jabs at the clichés of superhero movies, and CinemaSins-style (those guys have no idea how much they’ve influenced cinema) self-awareness gags.  Basically, this movie makes fun of anything having to do with the Batman character from the 60s to the 2010s (I honestly think it was funnier than Deadpool).  That is where the humor shines.   There is some quirky wordplay, but the parody factor is what delivers.  The animation compliments it very well.  Surely it doesn’t need to be stated that the animation in these Lego films is in the Top Ten of Forever/All Time?  I don’t have to say much, just check out the trailers, or the first movie, or this movie, and ye shall be rewarded (the music is pretty cool as well).

Unfortunately, Lego Batman suffers from something that many parodies can’t escape… using the clichés they make fun of.  Doing this is necessary to a certain point (how could Scream be a 90s horror movie if there were no teens getting murdered?), but Lego Batman uses many comic book movie clichés to build the story.  This would have been fine if the writing was as solid as it was in The Lego Movie (whose entire message and lead character was a trope as old as storytelling itself), but there are quite a few plotholes and they don’t reach the amount of dramatic heft they were going for.

The main conflict is Batman’s refusal to allow others into his life, which is definitely enough to carry a movie.  My problem is how they execute it.  Batman is flanderized quite a bit.  I know that this is a tongue-in-cheek animated Lego flick (an extremely over-the-top one), but Batman is annoyingly hard-headed and egotistical during most of his screen time.  I could excuse it in The Dark Knight because his character was very complicated, but it takes way too long for Lego Batman to learn this simple lesson.  Also, this thing about Batman’s character that they are debunking; it’s been a major part of Bruce Wayne’s core character since the comics.  That’s what makes him Batman.  If you want to satirize how the movies have taken it too far (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Rises) or not cared at all (Batman and Robin) fine, but questioning Bruce Wayne’s loner personality is like complaining about Superman’s alien origin.

The last few script problems are minor, but distracting.  For one, I have no idea when this story takes place.  I know it’s a spin-off, but they mention “master building” once or twice and they show a clip from the first movie.  Continuity is important, regardless of what character arc you’re focusing on.  Also, the climax is pretty cheesy.  Actually, it’s cheesy, predictable, and makes no sense.  Is it bad to say that the Portal Ex Machina from The Lego Movie was more believable than what happens in Lego Batman?  Again, these are minor problems; there is plenty of good to make up for it (including the energetic voice-acting).

I hope you’ve ascertained two things from this review: 1-The Lego Batman Movie is not as good as its predecessor, 2-you should see it right now.  If not for the humor, then maybe for the spectacle.  This movie is truly wonderful to look at.  I was scared to write notes should I miss some scintillating imagery.  This is one of the best animated spin-offs of all time, and it rightfully deserves Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+.

 

Batman Movies Ranked

Batman: The Movie (1966) – N/A

Batman (1989) – A

Batman Returns (1992) – C+

Batman Forever (1995) – B-

Batman and Robin (1997) – F

Batman Begins (2005) – A-

The Dark Knight (2008) – A

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – C

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – C-

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) – C-

The Lego Batman Movie (2017) – B+

Top Ten Best Movies of 2016

I don’t know what to write here, so let’s just talk about some dang good movies!

 

Rules: This list contains movies from 2016 that I have watched in their entirety.  Whether I reviewed them or not doesn’t matter (links to the movies I have written about will be provided).  Only theatrical releases can be on this list.  The grades I gave them in their reviews do not matter; it is a comparison of the best movies form last year that I saw.  Finally, this is my list, with my opinions, and my praise, so enjoy!

 

#10 – Zootopia

Yes, that “rules” paragraph was copy-pasted from my other list (problem?), but here is a movie without a shred of redundancy.  My opinion has wavered over how rock solid the commentary is, but one thing is certain, Zootopia is a clever look at society with the charm and likability of a Disney renaissance film.  The characters (if they are not a stereotype) are brimming with personality, the voice acting is amiable, and the animation is some of the best 3D has to offer.  Zootopia is overrated, but for very good reason.

#9 – The Lobster/Swiss Army Man

What is dis?  Two movies for one spot?  How dare I!  It’s my list, so roll with it.  I was in a major state of hopelessness before I watched these movies.  I really needed to see something original to combat the slew of pandering garbage.  I was excited and apprehensive to see both of these films because their trailers left much to the imagination.  I’ve been meaning to talk about both of these movies since I first watched the last year, but other things took priority.  By now, you probably know the plots of these movies, and you should watch them if not.  What’s fascinating is how eerily similar they are.  Both are love stories, they each have fantasy elements, they both have a 7.1 IMDb rating, neither of them follow “traditional” writing, and they were both incredible refreshers in a crappy film year.  The casts are given a lot to work with, the soundtracks are magnificent, and the oddball humor almost always hits it’s mark.  Most critics prefer The Lobster and most audiences prefer Swiss Army Man, but as far as this Internet nobody is concerned, they are equally original, equally entertaining, and equally important.

#8 – The Magnificent Seven

Many a time has passed when I fantasize about Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne entering reality, hunting down the people who gave this movie a poor rating, and asking them in a half-friendly tone (while brandishing an axe), “Now why did y’all have to do that?”  Is that normal?  Can you blame me?  The Magnificent Seven is one of the best action movies of last year, but it is quite possibly the most underrated gem of that year.  The performances are memorable, the action is brutal, the score is incredible, the cinematography is resplendent, and the mere fact that this movie is not only the rare, “remake of a remake,” but one that manages to be good as well… it’s awesome!  This is Antoine Fuqua’s best film since Shooter in 2007.  And yet, people still call it a worse remake than Ghostbusters 2016.  For those of you who believe that, refer to this list, then this review, then get your brain checked out.  Don’t give me that look; this is a list of movies that I love.  Of course I’m going to defend them!  You get the point, you’re in for some great action when you watch this movie.

#7 – Kung Fu Panda 3

I spent at least 30 minutes debating the order of this movie and the next one on the list.  After re-reading the reviews, thus recalling why I love both of them, I still can’t decide.  I’d put them both in the same spot, but I already did that with The Lobster/Swiss Army Man, and I don’t want to annoy you that much.  Let’s just say that #7 and #6 are interchangeable.

Oops, almost forgot to talk about Kung Fu Panda 3.  I still stand by what I said in the review, “Kung Fu Panda is one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time!”  I cannot think of a film trilogy that improved each time.  Return of the Jedi isn’t as good as its predecessors, nor was Temple of Doom or Dark Knight Rises, and the individual films in the Toy Story and Lord of the Rings trilogies are equally great (at least to me).  I am thoroughly triggered over the Oscar snubbery of this film.  There was not an animated film that looked more beautiful than this one.  Nobody will agree with me, but while Kubo and the Two Strings was detailed, Sing was colorful, and Zootopia was wonderfully designed, the visual appeal in Kung Fu Panda 3 (especially during the spirit world sequences) is not to be missed.  The animation is backed by likable characters, progressive writing, and upbeat humor.  I don’t know what they’ll do with the next movie but I have confidence in this team.  Their effort shows through the finished product, which is entertainment with a big heart.

#6 – Doctor Strange

Superhero movies cannot grow old as long as Marvel keeps churning out exceptional stuff like Doctor Strange!  From the acrobatic choreography, to the charming cast, to the philosophy, to the incredible production quality (i.e. makeup, F/X, costumes, and sets), everything is impressive.  You’ll notice that there are many movies on this list that could be considered “basic entertainment,” but that is perfectly acceptable.  There seems to be two radical thoughts on how “deep” movies can be.  Either “every movie is mindless entertainment,” or “everything has to be Manchester by the Sea levels of emotionally complicated.”  There is such a thing as a lighthearted action flick with some character or moral depth.  There can also be a serious movie with a decent helping of fun action/comedy.  One of the finest examples of this is Raiders of the Lost Ark.  If you think about it, the whole point of the movie was to stop the Nazis (the freaking Nazis!) from getting their hands on a weapon that would allow them to take over the world.  Clever writing and Steven Spielberg’s direction gave the movie more of a “fun adventure” tone, despite the many aspects of it that are not meant for kids.  On the surface, Doctor Strange is a thrilling spectacle of magic, but the developed characters all have very adult reasons for what they believe in.  Bottom line, if you want a superhero flick with the excitement of a summer blockbuster but with the attention to detail of a character piece, Doctor Strange is your movie.  After all, there will be plenty of mature movies now that we are in the top 5.

#5 – La La Land

We wanted a movie with style.  We wanted a movie with originality.  We wanted a movie with effort.  In response, we got La La Land, a beautiful throwback to the musicals of the past.  I never explained how bad of an experience I had at the theater when I watched the movie.  It was… very unpleasant.  After watching more reviews, clips from the film, and listening to the soundtrack on repeat, I’ve grown to like it more.  I still don’t think that “fantasy” thing near the end should have happened, but La La Land is still a feel-good musical with irresistible actors and a soundtrack that is just as great as everyone says.  It’s a movie that sparkles with style, delivers pure entertainment, and radiates passion/effort.

#4 – Hidden Figures

This one has grown on me over time.  The cast brims with talent, every character’s dialogue is intelligent, the score is wonderful, and the pacing is really good.  It felt like I had endured the amount of time the women in the movie did.  When justice is served, it felt earned.  The lighthearted tone mirrors the movie’s most valuable asset… a sense of hope.

#3 – Captain America: Civil War

In a world when audiences across the world are massively disappointed by one of 2016’s biggest misfires (Batman v Superman), Marvel will release a film (no, an event) that will remind us that superhero movies can have compelling story arcs, characters with character, mind-blowing visuals, incredible fight choreography, and a perfect balance of comedy and drama.  To those who have been picking apart every single word in the script, aren’t you taking this superhero movie (that doesn’t’ take itself that seriously) too seriously?  I really like Daniel Brühl’s villain, he had a plan that is legitimately intelligent.  The tension between the 10+ main characters (I’m still amazed at how well they wrote everyone) created more suspense than waiting for the airport scene (that takes really competent direction), and of course, the freaking battle sequences alone make life worth living.

#2 – Hacksaw Ridge

It came down to a tough decision between this move and number 1.  Hacksaw Ridge is one of the two movies of 2016 that drove me to tears (the other was Patriots Day, specifically the ending).  There are so many things this war drama does right… only the direction of Mel Gibson could have done it.  Andrew Garfield shines (as does the rest of the cast), the character’s actions support the message, the technical aspects are a spectacle, and that M.M.M montage cannot be forgotten.  This movie spends it’s time setting up the compelling characters before throwing them into the horrors of Hacksaw Ridge.  It is very hard to watch this movie, but the amount of care and respect that went into it is awe-inspiring.

 

Honorable Mentions

A sequel that ups the characters as much as the production quality, The Conjuring 2 has the dramatic heft to support the terrifying story.

Why wasn’t this nominated for any Oscars?  Seriously, Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter are spot on, their relationship progression felt natural, the time period is captured very well, and the movie doesn’t focus purely on politics.  As far as romances go, it’s one of the best.

After Barbershop 2: Back in Business, this movie had very little to live up to.  But under the competent direction of Malcom D. Lee, a fully-utilized cast, fast-paced humor, relatable characters, and engaging social commentary, The Next Cut became the best film in the trilogy.

  • Arrival

I never got around to reviewing this one because I couldn’t’ form an actual opinion.  One (or four) thing’s for sure, the story is original, the visuals can’t be beat, the score is chilling, and it requires you to use your brain.

  • Nocturnal Animals

This is one of the most elegant movies I have ever seen.  The score (especially “Wayward Sisters”) is beautiful, Tom Ford’s vision is remarkable, the performances (especially Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon) are excellent, and the story is intriguing.  Nocturnal Animals is one experience you won’t soon forget.

  • Loving

It suffers from Jeff Nichols trademarked slow pacing, but Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga’s performances are unbelievably endearing.

Top notch technicals are really second to the incredibly respectful direction, intense acting, and genuine drama.

It has plenty of issues, but the climax is awesome, the characters are likable, and the presentation is amazing.

This movie wasn’t meant for me, but I still appreciate what it accomplished.  It’s a superbly acted drama about regular people (something we don’t get enough of).

  • Lion

The first third is quite boring, but the second Dev Patel (congrats on the Oscar nomination man, you deserve it) arrives on screen, the movie gets better and better.  Not to mention Nicole Kidman’s heartbreaking acting and a tear-jerking climax.

Sing is one of the most innocently enjoyable films I’ve seen in quite some time.  Energetic animation backs up extremely likable (and perfectly casted) characters, completed with a terrific soundtrack.

 

#1 – Hell or High Water

While Hacksaw Ridge was tear-jerkingly dramatic, Hell or High Water is a slow-building, character-driven film about family, banks, old age, regret, and morality.  I can’t describe how detailed the screenplay is.  I’m’ looking forward to Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River because this guy knows what makes any compelling movie… characters.  In Hell or High Water, there is the black and white law, but there are also desperate people who have to break that law to survive.  None of the awards for this movie truly tell you how exceptional the cast is.  Chris Pine and Ben Foster have incredible chemistry, as do Jeff Bridges and Gil Bermingham.  There is such an attention to character in this movie, it is amazing.  This is the type of mature, important film that was so sorely needed in a year of “junk food movies.”

 

There you have it.  We went through a crappy film year, but made it out (as we always do).  I appreciate each and every one of your viewership.  There was more than one personal challenge for me last year, but when I get notified that “X liked your post,” it tells me that someone listened, and it motivates me to work harder.  – Erick

Top Ten Worst Movies of 2016

If I hear one more person say that 2016 was the worst year ever, I will create a time machine just so I can take them back to when the Plague killed off half of Europe.  If that ain’t scary enough for you, we’ll make a pit stop in 1944 Nazi Germany!

I’m sorry.  I really can’t stand the internet over the last couple of months.  Not helping is the fact that I had to sift through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of garbage to make this list (which you better enjoy son!).  Last year brought us a slew of audience-insulting immaturity, bland redundancies, and soul-crushing disappointments.  This list is going to identify and properly bash the worst offenders.

Rules: This list contains movies from 2016 that I have watched in their entirety.  Whether I reviewed them or not doesn’t matter (links to the movies I have written about will be provided).  Only theatrical releases can be on this list.  The grades I gave them in their reviews do not matter; it is a comparison of the worst movies I saw.  Finally, this is my list, with my opinions, and my rage, so enjoy!

 

#10 – Suicide Squad

I’d make a joke about fanboy backlash, but: A, I don’t have enough followers to validate that joke, and B; the followers I do have are thinking people with a maturity level above that of a 6th-grader.  Suicide Squad is awful.  I left the theater in shock, unable to accept that a movie this anticipated, with a cast this impeccable, and a director who I really like, could be as disappointing as it was.  As time went on, I liked this movie less and less.  Whatever leeway I had left for this movie was destroyed by David Ayer’s pretentious responses to naysayers of his oh so precious flick.  The cast is wasted, the plot is a jumbled mess, and the F/X are pathetic.  Somehow, DC managed to produce not one, not two, but three incredibly disappointing bombs last year (Batman v Superman, Batman: The Killing Joke, and this movie).  Suicide Squad is the worst because it had the most potential.  Not only was the cast on-point, but this script had the potential to be funny (much more funny than it was), and the characters all had time to be developed.  What we got was one of 2015’s biggest misfires.

#9 – Alice Through the Looking Glass

Does anyone remember this pointless treacle?  Thought not.  As the year went on, we got better F/X from better movies (Miss Peregrine and Rogue One specifically) so the one thing this movie has going for it is outdated.  I never even brought up the utterly pointless mental hospital scene that is never brought up again in the movie.  What was the plot of Through the Looking Glass?  Why was it made?  Why is Borat the master of time?  All I can say is thank God this movie bombed.

#8 – The Boy

Good gosh there were a lot of bad horror movies in 2016!  While I could see the ideas and slight bit of effort behind Blair Witch (that’s why it’s not on the list), I don’t think anyone in the production team of The Boy had a clue.  The very idea of this movie is a cliché, and the twist (unlike the one in Dead Silence which was also a horror movie about creepy dolls) makes the plot even worse.  I watched The Boy on Netflix a while back cuz I craved some scary thrills.  I was treated to boring characters muddling their way through a plot with barely enough substance to make it to the 90 minute mark.  The few scenes with the doll are occasionally creepy, but there were never any white-knuckling moments.  Basically, this is a horror movie with little substance and poor direction… and the title sucks.

#7 – Triple 9

You will see many movies on this list with great casts.  I cannot overstate this, a stellar cast does not equal a good movie!  With the finished product in mind, literally anyone could have played these cardboard cutouts.  The plot is so incoherent and confusing, you’d swear it was the rough draft before any revises.   The acting itself is lifeless.  The only one who looks like he’s trying is Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the only one with actual character is Casey Affleck.  At least the screenwriter went on to do Patriots Day.  Actually, that makes me wonder if the whole point of this movie was a paycheck for everyone.  Half of the cast went on to make better movies last year, so let’s just forget this utterly forgettable action flick.

#6 – The Secret Life of Pets

Forgive me if I get a bit too angry at Rotten Tomatoes ratings at times.  Essentially, the website is an amalgamation of critical reviews and ratings on most movies.  Technically a movie could be considered better than another if it has a higher percentage.  You have probably read my review of The Secret Life of Pets (since it was one of my most popular reviews from last year), so you know that I hate this movie with a passion.  I think the last time I got that angry at a kid’s movie was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Seriously, The Secret Life of Pets can burn and die.  The plot is copy-pasted Toy Story with no effort, humor, or intelligence, the voice acting is nothing but shouting and wasted talent, and the whole thing reeks of pandering to children.  Sing was produced by the same company, but written by people with passion and the finished product had effort put into it!  This movie’s success is a bad message to production companies that essentially says, “You can still rip off better movies and the returns will extremely high.  All you have to do is include a lot of dumb slapstick for the kids, and cast actors (that no one hates) like Louis C. K. and the Gen X critics will go easy on it.”  Not to mention this movie’s biggest WTFrick aspect… animated cat buttholes.  I rest my case.

#5 – Ben-Hur

I’m sorry, who the heck asked for this movie?  I guess the producers thought they could remake a movie from the 50s and thought younger audience members wouldn’t notice.  How many more crappy remakes that try to ignore the existence of the original are we going to get?  This movie is beyond saving.  If the shaky cinematography, awful editing, wooden performances, lackluster direction, and ugly effects weren’t enough, we also have a script with literally no new ideas.  Instead of subtlety and an epic scale, we have Jesus popping up every other scene like a Jehovah’s Witness, and a claustrophobic feeling (due to the lack of wide, sweeping shots).  How the same director of the extremely entertaining Wanted created this boring retread is beyond me.  The best thing I can say about this waste is that it reminded people how well-constructed the original is.

#4 – Independence Day: Resurgence

Ab-so-lute-ly EVERYTHING about this movie can be summed up in one word, “No.”  The premise?  No.  The acting?  No.  The F/X?  No.  The release date?  Really?  This movie isn’t even bad enough to be considered a throwback to the cheesiness of the 90s.  I should have given it an F, but I digress.  Hopefully Emmerich won’t ever direct again.  What?  They’ve already announced the third sequel and a Stargate remake?  That does it, I’m raiding 20th Century Fox HQ with a shotgun in one hand and bubblegum in the other.

#3 – Ghostbusters

Hey Sony, you racist/sexist scum of the earth, how does box office failure taste?  Somehow I think that the director and writers had a lot less control over the movie than they should have.  I made it very clear in my review that I hate the response to this movie more than the movie itself (but I still hate it).  I thank God everyday this movie was not a box office success, maybe it will tell companies that audiences are NOT THAT FREAKING STUPID.  The jokes (with very little exception) are insulting and juvenile, and the characters are either stereotypes, clichés, nonentities, or pathetic cameos.  On a few levels, I can see this movie working.  For example, the designs of the ghosts have a unique style, but even that was ruined by studio-forced 3D.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this movie to make it so far in this list, but that’s what happens when most of a year’s bad movies are remakes, rip-offs, and sequels.  Hey guys, I have an idea, instead of remaking classics with all-women casts, why don’t you make something original with female heroes?  Maybe then your agenda message would work.

#2 – The Legend of Tarzan

Among the many movies I didn’t see in time to review, this gorilla poop was one of the worst.  Who in the name of Alexander Skarsgård’s pecs thought up this movie and how did they get it made?  Even by Hollywood’s egregious redundancy standards, what was the target audience for this boorfest?  It’s not for fans of the 1999 animated Tarzan since it’s not animated and the plot deals with adult issues, it’s not for hardcore survival enthusiasts because of the PG-13 neutering, and it’s not for people with functioning brains because of how unimaginably ridiculous it is.  While watching this movie, I never once felt like I was watching a Tarzan movie.  In an attempt to be “edgy” The Legend of Tarzan loses the fun adventure that makes up the characters’ personality.  Instead, we get all the clichés, muscly guys saving pretty women whose makeup never smears, a comedic/complaining sidekick (why L. Jackson, why?), a rich white villain who is only after money, and a whole lot a crappy CGI.  Director David Yates has a great talent of blending practical sets (the costumes, makeup, and sets are very impressive) with computer generated effects, but the CGI is way too overused in this movie.  After Mad Max: Fury Road, there is no excuse for choosing F/X over practical stunts (especially if the budget is $180 million).  Every time not-Tarzan is jumping around in the jungle, they zoom the camera out (or shake it around) and cover up the horrendous effect.  It takes the audience out of the experience when we can’t see Tarzan do Tarzan things!  The cast play caricatures instead of characters, and the plot is incoherent and redundant.  This load of idiocy gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a D-.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

  • Demolition

Pretentious and confused, Demolition wastes its talented cast (and a couple of decent ideas) on a script with no idea what to say.

Some decent voice acting and smooth animation can’t overcome shoddy character arcs, plot incoherence, and inappropriate sex puns.

If its predecessor didn’t exist, this unnecessary sequel would definitely be on the list.  That said, I stand by my belief that this movie did have more effort put into it than I thought possible.

All fan service and no direction makes movie disappoint.

Kevin Costner is legitimately good, but the movie lacks action, and the concept is half-baked.  By being shorter than Triple 9 (and less confusing), Criminal made it out alive.

If there was ever an example of DC’s ineptitude to deliver on a product, it’s this disappointing exposition dump.  Even Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Jeremy Irons’ performances are all cancelled out by Jesse Eisenberg’s twitchy nonsense.

  • Now You See Me 2

When it’s not kissing the feet of China (gotta get those box office greenbacks), this sequel is farting up plotholes, unnecessary new characters, and stupid visual gimmicks.  Fun Fact: the audience cannot be tricked if they are asleep.

  • Batman: The Killing Joke

From the absolutely baffling relationship between Batman and Batgirl, to the forgettable mobster villain, this adaptation fails from the very first scene.  Then again, if you cut the first 30 minutes, it would be identical to the original comic.

 

#1 – Miracles from Heaven

The cinematographer of Dances with Wolves (one of the most beautiful films of all time) shot this unfocused mess.  Yes, I am still on that!  I can’t believe how bad this movie turned out.  I was a bit hard on Jennifer Garner in the review, so I’d like to say that she was trying.  Unfortunately her character is poor and I really couldn’t have cared less.  The secondary characters are forgettable, and the overall message is contrived at best and lazy at worst.  If this movie’s message was about something like homosexuality, it would have been crucified by audiences.  I haven’t read the book, so it could be as poorly structured as 50 Shades of Grey, or as monumental as To Kill a Mockingbird.  What I do know is that the screenplay can’t create a sense of realism if it tried.  The characters are stereotypes, underdeveloped, or just poorly written.  A fatal flaw of Christian films (this is coming from a Christian, mind you), especially the ones who go out of their way to argue religion, is their one-sided rhetoric.  Obviously the movie is made for a specific audience, but at some point you have to acknowledge the counter-arguments and opposing viewpoints.  Even though the skeptic from The Conjuring 2 was a bit of a strawman, it helped ground the movie in reality and added to the drama.  In the eyes of a secular, this movie could be nothing but unexplained coincidence and forced drama.  Miracles from Heaven is definitely the worst movie of 2016.

 

In contrast to the poor films on the list you just read, the movies on my Top Test Best list are marvelous.  That list will be published in the next few days.  Your viewership has played a part in making 2016 a decent year for me, and for that I thank you.

“Doctor Strange” Review

Many people have that “one” movie they have been looking forward to all year; for some it’s Jason Bourne, for others it’s Suicide Squad, and for everyone it is Star Wars: Rouge One.  But for me, it is Doctor Strange.  Even though I have read only a few of his comics, every time he made an appearance I felt a giddiness that only my favorite superheroes (e.g. Captain America, Batman, and David Dunn) can create.  Unlike DC (who can’t put out a good movie this year), Marvel has continued to impress with a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting origin story.

Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson, and written by: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill.  Stars-Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachael McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, and Benedict Wong.  Premise-The origin story of Dr. Stephen Strange who, while seeking spiritual healing after an accident, learns mystical secrets and gains powers to defeat unseen enemies.

What’s that?  A pink (or in this case white) elephant in the room?  Yes, Tilda Swinton is not Asian.  Even though I believe that white-washing still exists, I do not believe that it was practiced in this movie.  For one, why would they risk a Ghostbusters (2016) level of bad press especially when they need this movie to be successful to expand their universe?  Secondly, Derrickson himself said “Certainly our intentions were to subvert racial stereotypes and to create the best possible diversity between within the cast.”  I think this was a good decision.  Look at the cast members I listed; that is a far more diverse cast than other recent Marvel movies.  If you needed any more proof, the cast is incredible!

Each actor is thoroughly lost in their role (whether it be over-the-top, philosophical, comic relief, or dramatic), and the characters they play are well-developed and have great chemistry.  My only gripe with the characters is the Marvel formula.  The lead character is egocentric, really good at one specific thing that will get him noticed by higher-ups, he makes a lot of quips, poorly treats his loved ones, and fights a one-dimensional villain.  The Marvel formula has worked for a reason, but I am just getting a bit tired of it.  What made Deadpool different was the R rating, what made Civil War different was the emotional divide between the Avengers.  Doctor Strange would be a stronger character if I wasn’t reminded of Tony Stark so often.  As for the villain, well, he is about 20% better of a villain than Apocalypse or whoever the villain in Ant-Man was.  The mere intensity of Mikkelsen is enough to save the character, but he is essentially the villain who abused his teacher’s power and betrayed them (you may have seen this cliché in Ant-Man, Attack of the Clones, The Force Awakens, and a dozen other movies).  Despite this, the characters are still fleshed-out and their interactions are natural.

What really makes this movie worth watching, multiple times, are the incredible F/X, action sequences, and humor.  Think of the F/X in Inception (especially the “Paris folding in on itself” scene); now add the spell-casting visuals of Warcraft or Harry Potter.  I have been very hard on CGI in movies (especially when it is not needed or if the story can’t support it), but Doctor Strange has some of the best visual effects I have ever seen in a movie.  Scott Derrickson directed Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil (2014), and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.  I have no idea how Disney (who owns Marvel) keeps casting directors that seem like odd choices, but makes them turn out extremely well.  Derrickson’s direction in this movie is extremely underrated.  Since this movie is based on comics that explored interdimensional travel, you should expect some trippy stuff on screen, and I cannot express how much fun it is to mimic some of the moves the characters do in the movie.  The action scenes are very well-choreographed, and the jokes are gold 90% of the time.

There were two things that surprised me, first, the philosophy, and second the ending.  No, I’m not talking about the end credits scenes; I mean the last third of the film.  Throughout the movie, we are treated to some legitimately intriguing and creative philosophy and themes.  There is one particular scene between Strange and The Ancient One (Swinton) that is just them looking out of a window contemplating death.  This is when the strongest moments of character are present, and it cleverly opens the door to future plot points.

I am so glad that one of my favorite movies of the year came out in my birthday month.  God knows I needed it after watching Trolls…ugh.  I took very few notes when I watched it because I didn’t want to miss anything.  Thank you for your time, now go watch this movie.  Even if you don’t get into the story, the visuals and action scenes are definitely worth the price of admission.  Doctor Strange gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A-.

“Suicide Squad” Review

*Talking to myself before going to the theatre*  Alright, so we have gotten a faithful R rated superhero movie [Deadpool], a complete misfire [Batman v Superman], a more-than-worthy successor to The Avengers [Captain America: Civil War], and a fun but flawed X-Men flick [X-Men: Apocalypse] all before summer is over!  Let’s see if Suicide Squad can’t spice this year up a bit more.  *Talking to myself after leaving the theatre*  Dam*it!

Suicide Squad is written and directed by David Ayer.  Stars-Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, and Jai Courtney.  Premise- A government agent creates a team of deadly supervillains for the use of unofficial black ops missions.

It is not going to be easy to approach this one.  Suicide Squad is one of the most positively anticipated comic book movies ever made.  Not to mention that the Rotten Tomatoes rating is only one percent higher than Fifty Shades of Grey.  Hey, at this point in 2016, I’m not surprised at the ludicrous ratings anymore.  Needlesss to say, I’m worried.  Enough stalling, let’s get down to business!

Obviously, the first thing anyone is going to talk about is the ensemble cast.   Since I don’t care about offending people with my opinion, let us go over them in detail.  Will Smith is the best actor in the movie because of his amazing switches between dramatic, intense, cynical, and emotional.  He plays Deadshot, who I’m sure many will call a rip-off of Deadpool, but in his defense, Smith has more acting skills than Ryan Reynolds ever will.  Margot Robbie is near-perfect as Harley Quinn.  Some of her jokes are forced, but she pulls it off.  Viola Davis is intense as Amanda Walker, mostly because she never shows signs of fear or backing down.  As for Jared Leto, let me put it this way, this is the kind of Joker performance that I’d expect Jim Carrey to do.  I am fully aware that we are never ever going to get another Heath Ledger Joker, but I was not expecting Leto to be so over-the-top; he even sounds like Jim Carrey!  It’s not entirely his fault, his design is ridiculous and his dialogue is simple.  He looks and acts like a pimped-out gang boss rather than the freaking Joker!  What’s worse is that his entire role in this movie is completely pointless, which I can barely accept.

David Ayer is a pretty good director in my opinion.  Every one of his movies is heavily special forces-focused, and his directing style is brutal and relentless.  He directed Harsh Times, Street Kings, End of Watch, Sabotage, and FuryEnd of Watch is my favorite cop movie (and one of the best of its genre) because it has likeable leads and a completely realistic setting.   Due to his background (which involves living in LA as a youth and serving in the U.S. Navy), his films have a gritty tone to them which is hard to find in other modern films.  You can imagine my shock when I found out that Suicide Squad is PG-13.  Apparently this was Ayer’s decision, but if you ask me, the film could do with a few more risks being taken.  This movie isn’t nearly as violent as it should be, nor is it gripping.

The technical aspects of this movie are pretty top notch, the soundtrack is a great mix of Steven Price’s score and existing songs, the editing (literally) ads a bit of color and energy to the film, the sets and (most) of the costumes look cool, and the battle scenes are fun and entertaining.  The best thing about this movie is the comedic tone.  There are more jokes than necessary, but when one hits its mark, you’ll be uncontrollably laughing.  Smith’s character alone could carry this movie.

The absolute worst thing about this movie is the fast-paced, underdeveloped, incomplete, bloated script.  Remember how Captain America: Civil War had a nearly 3 hour run time and over 10 main characters?  That movie balanced out its incredible cast and complicated story extremely well, Suicide Squad does the exact opposite.  The whole movie feels rushed, none of the characters get enough time to shine (or be fully developed) and because of that, you can’t get emotionally connected to them, especially the ones that you obviously know are going to die.  Oh yeah, this movie tries really hard to do drama, but it just comes off as forced or clichéd.  What really irks me is that both the Joker and Harley Quinn are completely useless in this movie (thank you Colin Covert for pointing this out).  Yep, the most advertised aspects of the trailers (which don’t tell you what the movie is really about) don’t even need to be in the movie.  I can’t go into too much detail, for the fear of spoiling anything, but just know that the Joker’s role is completely tied to Harley Quinn, and her role is miniscule.  Yes, she looks great in the outfit, but “eye-candy” is not equal to “useful character.”

The villain is pathetic.  Underdeveloped and very unintimidating.  I barely remember their plan in the first place.  Don’t even get me started on the ending of the final battle, which I can only describe as cheap.  You know what else is cheap?  Fake-out deaths, incredibly obvious, incredibly annoying, incredibly stupid fake-out-deaths, of which this movie has at least 2.

David Ayer has said multiple times that this movie is for the fans, not the critics.  You will either see that as sincere, or as a lazy excuse for making a subpar superhero movie.  I see it as both.  He loves his fans, but his movies don’t typically please critics.  All I ask for is a movie that can please both audiences through clever fan service and smart writing.  We sadly didn’t get that.  I’m left baffled that there are now two 2016 superhero movies whose straight-to-video animated counterparts are better written than the big budget live-action versions (Batman v Superman/Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 and Suicide Squad/Batman: Assault on Arkham).  Should you see it?  Yes, but not in the theatre.  There is little “theatre value” to this movie, and you’d probably have more fun watching it with you friends on a comfy couch.  Suicide Squad gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B-.

Captain America: Civil War Review

2016 is an interesting year for comic book movies isn’t it?  We have been graced with a perfect adaptation of Deadpool, a complete misfire in the form of Batman v Superman, and now, the best Marvel movie since The Avengers; Captain America: Civil War.  This far into the comic-book movie boom, writers, directors, and producers need to think outside of the box and exercise creativity more than ever because we have seen so many comic book movies.  We know the modern: characters, tropes, plots, and formulas (which are commonplace among these films) so well, that if a superhero movie relies on them too much (Ant-Man for example), it will feel standard.  However, if Marvel has proven anything, it is that they are always planning, and always evolving their storylines and characters in their cinematic universe.

Captain America: Civil War is directed by Anthony/Joe Russo and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  Stars-Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, and Tom Holland.  Premise-After an accident during a mission which killed innocent people, governments around the word are requiring the Avengers to cease their restrictionless efforts and submit to following orders from these governments.  Steve Rogers and Tony Stark disagree on what they should do, and the result is a conflict between the team.

No one can look at me with a “Really?” face when I tell them that Captain America is my favorite Avenger anymore, because it is his trilogy which has the second-best (or the best) Marvel movie of all time!  The only things about it that I find the slightest bit subpar, are Downey Jr./Jeremy Renner’s performances (which are more over-the-top than they needed to be) and the Russo’s shaky cam.  Also, Vision doesn’t do much in the movie.  Despite the fact that he is one of the most powerful members of the team, it felt like they didn’t have him involved because he could just end the fight with his mind powers.

I honestly can’t decide what I like most about this movie because everything is outstandingly top-notch!  The humor always delivers, the writers know what jokes to give which actors and the actors always deliver.  The action scenes, while shakily shot, are a marvel to watch because of how fast-paced and intense they are.  The plot is: unpredictable, intriguing, creative, smart, and new.  The performances are respectable, never too serious and never too goofy (with a few exceptions).

I have thought long and hard about saying this, but I really believed that this is the best comic book movie screenplay of all time, or at least in the Top 3.  The debate between Stark and Rogers is completely believable because they present the pros and cons of each opinion.  I love the arguments between these two characters!  Not only are they intelligent conversations, but they are also thought-provoking and timely.  The social commentary in this movie isn’t as profound/blatant in Zootopia or Barbershop 3, but the commentary doesn’t need to be.  The filmmakers know that this is a Marvel comic book film (not meant to be taken that seriously), but they take advantage of what they have.  The contrast between Stark’s blinding ego and Rogers’ overwhelming patriotism makes their arguments much more human and it adds so much tension to the already thrilling story.

There are also a few new (but familiar) characters added to the movie which, after Age of Ultron, you’d expect would make the film feel crowded, but they write these characters in seamlessly.  No one gets more screentime than necessary, and yet I wanted to see much more of them (that is how you properly make people excited for a sequel, DC).  You know by now that Spider-Man is in this movie (thanks trailer), so I might as well mention that they could not have done his character any more perfectly.  They casted Tom Holland to play him and my gosh this kid hits every mark.  He’s likeably awkward as Peter Parker and captures the wise-cracking web slinger, Spider-Man with ease.  Let’s just say that I am hyped as keck to see his future movies!

Speaking of incredibly well-executed things, the battle between the Avengers is perfect!  I have not felt a nerdgasm this intense since the tracking shot in The Avengers!  This battle is filled with hilarious jokes and one-liners, the action and fight choreography are incredibly impressive, and the way the fight wraps up is not the way you’d expect.  This fight sequence is worth the price of admission and is also one of the best moments of 2016 by far.

I haven’t even talked about the best character in the movie yet (no, not Spider-Man, although he is second best)!  That honor goes to the villain.  Since the trailers didn’t reveal much about him it’s going to be difficult to explain why he’s the best Marvel villain of all time.  Yes, even better than the Winter Soldier and Loki.  The villain in Civil War has a plan which at face value looks just like any other typical villain plan, but he takes it 20 steps further.  He’s played by Daniel Brühl who’s devotion and anger is always present onscreen.  His motivation for what he does is not power, or money, or just because he’s evil (we’ve seen those tropes in every Marvel villain); his reason is surprisingly relatable, and because of that, I genuinely felt sorry for him.

The climax of the movie is not a giant mega battle, instead they go for something more subtle.  Don’t worry, you will not be disappointed, because the lead into the final confrontation is handled so well.  If you think about it, if they did have another mega battle as the climax, it would have lost most of its effect because we already got the ultimate battle with the Avengers 10 minutes earlier.  These writers need to be given much more credit.

The best kinds of movies are the ones that, in addition to succeeding in what they were supposed to do, successfully and respectfully add something to society, advance or add to the industry, or subtly teach morals.   For example, I love a dumb 80’s or 90’s action movie every now and then, but if you gave me a choice between something like Commando, or something like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, I’d go with the latter.  Both of those options are entertaining action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Judgment Day revolutionized the industry with new effects, smart writing, and emotional characters.  Here’s a question for you; which one of those films is regarded as a classic/ talked about more?  Captain America: Civil War is both an entertaining comic book movie, but through clever writing, it became so much more.  As far as I’m concerned, this movie is only matched by The Avengers as the best Marvel movie of all time.  Captain America: Civil War gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A+.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

I don’t think The Force Awakens had the amount of worry, excitement, and controversy around it during pre-production that Batman v Superman did!  While that controversy is warranted (for obvious reasons), that should not get in the way of the quality of the film.  “How’s the overall quality?”  You may ask.  At least it’s not Batman and RobinBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed by Zack Snyder and written by David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio.  Stars-Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, and Jeremy Irons.  Premise-After the wake of destruction brought on by the Kryptonian battle in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne takes special interests in devising ways of defeating the potentially dangerous Superman.  At the same time, psychologically unstable Lex Luthor aims to create the ultimate battle between the two titans, using politics, personal connections to the heroes, and a certain green crystal.

Finally we get DC’s answer to The Avengers (4 years late).  I don’t think DC is ever going to catch up with (let alone, out-do) Marvel in terms of movies.  The one exception was The Dark Knight trilogy, and that worked because it had the godlike filmmaking of Christopher Nolan on its side.  Zack Snyder-who’s best work ironically comes from his comic book adaptations-whilst a decent director makes quite a lot of questionable decisions with his movies (making Watchmen 3 hours long, making Man of Steel a bit too dark, and making Sucker Punch are a few examples).  While I really like Man of Steel, I acknowledge that is has a plethora of problems, but I still call it a mostly faithful adaptation with amazing action sequences, incredible music, and a very well-utilized cast.  I have many problems with Batman v Superman, but for the sake of an interesting review, let’s give the movie a fair chance and look at the positives first.

The end battle (not the Batman vs. Superman battle, which lasts like 5 minutes and is painfully slow-paced) is very entertaining.  Michael Wilkinson’s (who is extremely underrated in the industry) costume design is quite impressive.  Wonder Woman’s character was written very well.  Jeremy Irons, Lawrence Fishburne, and Gal Gadot are very commendable, and just seeing these characters sharing the silver screen is nerdgasm inducing.  The music is ok, but here’s the problem.  Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL (who both scored the movie) are literally the two film composers in the world who make the loudest, most bombastic music in the movie industry!  Don’t get me wrong, I love both of these composers, and they have done great work (Zimmer with Inception, The Lion King, and many others and Junkie XL with Mad Max: Fury Road).  But when you take both of these guys and have them compose for a superhero movie directed by Zack Snyder (who typically has loud music in his movies) the result is just going to be one long *BWOOONG*.

My gosh is this movie horribly written, in nearly every aspect of the term ‘writing!’  I was shocked at how horrendous the screenplay is.  David S. Goyer has been writing comic book movies since the 90’s (he wrote Batman Begins, Blade, and Man of Steel).  Of course he has his fair share of crap (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Blade: Trinity), but he at least knows what a comic book adaptation should be.  Chris Terrio… was an odd choice to co-write.  The man literally wrote only two movies before Batman v Superman.  The only reason I think they hired him was because he wrote (and won an Oscar for) Argo, which was directed by Ben Affleck (coincidence?).  Batman v Superman (dang it feels cool to say that!) is just a setup for DC’s future films just like what The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was for Sony Marvel.  However (just like The Amazing Spider-Man 2) it fails to be an entertaining/decent quality movie because of it.  I’d compare it to Fantastic Four’s (2015) exposition-focused writing, but no movie deserves to be compared to that cinematic cesspool.  Just trust me when I say that there is waaaaaay too much talking in this two and a half hour movie.  Batman v Superman cannot spend most of its time setting up future movies, because (pay attention here) THIS IS FREAKING BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN!  Not since The Avengers has a fanbase been this anxious, or has a comic book movie been this anticipated!  Producers, we can wait for Justice League, right now we the need the absolute best movie possible.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, the screenwriting.  The characterizations of Batman and Lex Luthor are very far off.  This version of Batman/Bruce Wayne has at least 3 stupid, pointless, plot-stopping dream sequences that tell us the same thing, “Bruce Wayne is tortured and scared of what Superman will do.”  Zack, we know the former by now, and-although I appreciate that you’re utilizing visual storytelling-we don’t need to be reminded of the latter over and over again.  Lex Luthor on the other hand, let me tell you, while everyone was panicking over Batfleck (to be fair, Affleck is passable), I was super excited to see Columbus from Zombieland portray one of the greatest comic book villains of all time.  The result was an awkward combination of Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network and Heath Ledger’s Joker.  In every incarnation of Lex Luthor I have ever seen, he has never been a complete psychopath (like he is portrayed in Batman v Superman).  Sure, he can get a little mad with power, but never insane.  It doesn’t help that Jesse Eisenberg’s performance couldn’t possibly be any more over-the-top; the last shot of Lex Luthor killed any possible respect I had for the character (epic fail) because it looks so insanely stupid.  Here is something I haven’t said before, the sentence and grammar structure of the dialog in this movie gets pretty lackluster (how does a movie written by an Academy Award Winning writer have such amateur English?).  Seriously, the dialog in this movie is worded so poorly at times, it completely distracted me from the SUPERHEROES on the screen!

In addition to unacceptable screenwriting, we also have characters that make dumb decisions, shaky-cam, a completely pointless re-shoot of the iconic “murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents” scene, and some of the worst editing I have ever seen in a superhero movie!  Most of the time, scenes cut with hardly any transitions.  There will be a sappy scene with Lois Lane and Superman (there are a lot of those cheesy scenes), and then it will cut to Bruce Wayne having a nightmare (that is just one example).  Transitions are supposed to be added to the movie so scenes flow and don’t distract from the experience of the film (and so a proper narrative can be formed).  Establishing shots, letting the music lead into (or “signal”) the next scene, or having the two scenes be related will create a smooth transition.  I am saying this because Batman v Superman’s editing sucks.

I really don’t have anything witty or informative to put here, the movie was too boring to leave any lasting impression besides a feeling of disappointment.  In the meantime, I’m praying that Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange will be the real superhero movies of 2016.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.

I am sorry that this review is so late.  I had to write a research paper (in addition to regular homework) last week, and it was the most difficult assignment I have ever taken on!  I completed it (thank God), but at the expense of making this review.  Needless to say I am a bit burned out right now.  However, I will try my hardest to get back on schedule.  You know what’s coming out this Friday?  A sequel to one of the most successful Christian movies ever made which is highly regarded as one of the worst Christian movies ever made.  Oh, goody.